Fact or Fiction: Do Carbs Make You Fat?

Carbohydrates have long been regarded as a primary cause of fat gain, but is that actually the truth?

While carbohydrates are a primary source of energy for most of us, if consumed in excess, they can certainly lead to weight and fat gain, but fortunately for all of us, this doesn’t happen to the extent that most think.

In this article, I’ll touch on what carbohydrates are, their purpose and how they can result in excess weight gain. Afterwards, I provide best practices for adjusting your carb intake based on your energy requirements.

What Are Carbohydrates?

Before getting directly into whether or not carbohydrates can make you fat, you first need to understand what carbohydrates are, what their purpose is and finally, what contributes to carbs being stored as body fat.

Carbohydrates are essentially chains of sugar molecules of differing length. Very short chain or single molecules of sugar, otherwise known as glucose, are considered to be “simple sugars.” This includes ingredients like table sugar, rice, honey and even fructose found in fruits.

On the other hand, you have what are known as complex carbohydrates, which have much longer chains of sugar molecules and are a bit more difficult to digest. This includes ingredients like starchy vegetables, some oats, whole grain products and beans (1).

Eventually however, all of these carbohydrates once ingested, are broken down to their simplest form, known as glucose.

Glucose is a simple sugar that our body derives its main energy source known as ATP. When carbohydrates are consumed, they all have the fate of being broken down into glucose but the complexity of their structures determine how quickly this occurs.

What Role Do Carbohydrates Play Once Ingested?

As briefly mentioned, when consumed, carbohydrates of all sorts are broken down into glucose, which can then enter the blood stream to be used for a number of different purposes.

The first fate of carbohydrate, or glucose for that matter is to begin metabolism and be used immediately through a process known as glycolysis. This would happen if you were active, such as during a workout, and you ingested a sugary drink. This glucose is metabolized to provide ATP, to push you through the workout (2).

Second, this glucose can be shuttled towards different tissues such as organs like the liver and even muscle, where it’s transformed into what is known as glycogen, the stored version of glucose. Essentially, it’s a stockpile of glucose just incase you need it for further activity or even survival (3).

Third and lastly, this glucose can be transported to fat cells, stored and converted into triglyceride or body fat, through a process known as De Novo Lipogenesis (4).

While this process does occur, it’s actually less common than most think and really only becomes an issue if carbohydrate intake is extremely high and activity level is very low. But we’ll get into that a bit later.

Carbohydrate Intake & Activity Level

The main issue with the fear of carbohydrate leading to fat gain is that there is some truth to the theory, just not in the way that most people think.

Your energy balance, or the ratio of the calories that you consume, relative to the amount of energy your body burns through activity on a day-to-day basis largely regulates bodyweight changes (5).

If you’re consuming more calories than you’re expending, you’re creating what is known as a positive energy balance, which leads to weight gain. Essentially, you’re ingesting more energy than you need, so the body stores it for later use.

Considering that carbohydrates have calorie amounts, if you end up consuming more calories from carbohydrate sources than are required by your activity level, you can expect this to contribute to overall weight gain.

At this point, the process of De Novo Lipogenesis occurs, where glucose in the blood is shuttled towards fat cells, stored and then converted into triglyceride (4).

Essentially, it’s important to remember that it’s not necessarily the carbohydrates themselves causing the weight gain. Rather, the weight gain is due to consuming far more carbohydrates and thus, calories than are required.

Use Carb-Cycling To Manage Your Carbohydrate Intake

Based on the previous information, it’s safe to say that overall, carbohydrates really only contribute to weight and fat gain, if their consumed in a greater amount than is actually required by the body for energy and storage.

Since this may be the case, it’s suggested that you consider using what is known as carb-cycling; a method that allows you to manipulate your carbohydrate intake, based on your energy requirements and activity level each day.

For example, if carbohydrate can become and issue when consumed in large amounts, it makes sense to adjust your carb intake based on how active you are. On days that you’re very active or have a high volume training session like a leg day, you consume your highest amount of carbohydrate.

On days that your training volume is lower or even on rest days, you consume your lowest amount of carbohydrates. Essentially, this method allows you to increase or curtail carb consumption based on activity.

Additionally, you can even use this method with equal calorie amounts or if you’re attempting to lose body fat, you can also manipulate total calorie amounts, in addition to carbohydrate.

Here’s a week example of how to pair your carb consumption with your activity level:

  • Day 1: High Volume Leg Day – High Carb Day
  • Day 2: Rest Day – Low Carb Day
  • Day 3: Upper Body, Moderate Volume – Moderate Carb Day
  • Day 4: High Volume Leg Day – High Carb Day
  • Day 5: Rest Day – Low Carb Day
  • Day 6: High Volume Leg Day – High Carb Day
  • Day 7: High Volume Arm Day – High Carb Day

Fact or Fiction: Do Carbs Make You Fat?

Overall, it’s safe to say that carbohydrates themselves don’t directly contribute to weight gain, but they certainly can if you’re consuming them in excess.

Essentially, the factor deciding whether or not carbohydrates get stored as body fat is activity level. If activity level is very low, yet carb intake is high, it’s possible that those carbohydrates could eventually contribute to fat and weight gain.

Based on this information, if you’re concerned about carbohydrates and fat gain, consider using a carb-cycling approach that allows you to manipulate carb intake, based on daily activity level.

References

  1. Simple vs Complex Carbs. (n.d.). Retrieved June 21, 2017, from http://www.diabetes.co.uk/nutrition/simple-carbs-vs-complex-carbs.html
  2. Brooks, G. A. (2010). What does glycolysis make and why is it important?.
  3. Ivy, J. L. (2001). Dietary strategies to promote glycogen synthesis after exercise. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 26(S1), S236-S245.
  4. Acheson, K. J., Schutz, Y., Bessard, T., Anantharaman, K. R. I. S. H. N. A., Flatt, J. P., & Jequier, E. (1988). Glycogen storage capacity and de novo lipogenesis during massive carbohydrate overfeeding in man. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 48(2), 240-247.
  5. Spiegelman, B. M., & Flier, J. S. (2001). Obesity and the regulation of energy balance. Cell, 104(4), 531-543.

Probiotics

“All disease begins in the gut.” Those words were spoken nearly 2,500 years ago by Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. An oversimplification that may be, but there is truth to this statement – your gut health has a massive effect on your overall health and well-being.
There are various ways you can improve your gut health. They include eating probiotic-rich foods, consuming resistance starches, eliminating artificial sweeteners, and reducing stress. One of the fastest and most efficient ways, however, is supplementing with probiotics.
Probiotics are live microorganisms (usually in the form of bacteria) that benefit your health1.  Here are three powerful, evidence-based benefits of probiotics.

1. Probiotics Help You Lose Fat

The better your gut flora, the more likely you are to sport a lean and impressive physique.

In one study, scientists supplemented the diet of 210 obese individuals with the probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri for twelve weeks 2. As a result, they lost on average 8.5% belly fat.

Why do probiotics help get you lean? Because they reduce hunger by stimulating the release of GLP-1, an appetite-suppressing hormone 3. Besides, certain probiotics decrease fat storage by raising ANGPTL4 4.

2. Probiotics Boost Your Immune System

Probiotics bolster your gut flora by increasing healthy gut bacteria and inhibiting the growth of harmful ones5

The result? Probiotics decrease your risk of infections, lower your chances of getting sick, and help you recover faster when you do get ill 6-7

So, you’ll have to skip fewer workouts due to sickness, which means you can make progress at a faster rate.

3. Probiotics Boost Your Happiness

Around 90 percent of serotonin production happens in the digestive tract. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (a brain chemical) that helps stabilize your mood.

The problem is that an unhealthy gut flora wreaks havoc on serotonin production. That’s one of the reasons why gut health is closely linked to mental health 8.

By supplementing with probiotics, you boost your gut flora, which in turn enhances your mental well-being 9.

One study, for example, supplemented the diet of 70 chemical workers with either a probiotic supplement or 100 grams of probiotic yogurt daily for six weeks. As a result, they suffered less depression, anxiety, and stress 10.

References

1. Hill, C., Guarner, F., Reid, G., Gibson, G. R., Merenstein, D. J., Pot, B., . . . Sanders, M. E. (2014). Expert consensus document. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 11(8), 506-14.

2. Kadooka, Y., Sato, M., Ogawa, A., Miyoshi, M., Uenishi, H., Ogawa, H., . . . Tsuchida, T. (2013). Effect of Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 in fermented milk on abdominal adiposity in adults in a randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition, 14;110(9), 1686-703

3. Yadav, H., Lee, J. H., Lloyd, J., Walter, P., & Rane, S. G. (2013). Beneficial metabolic effects of a probiotic via butyrate-induced GLP-1 hormone secretion. The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 30;288(35), 25088-97.

Gut Health

Did you know that your digestive tract is host to trillions of bacteria? And that people of healthy weight have different gut bacteria than those who carry excess weight 1-2?

It’s true. Researchers have even found that when obese mice get a fecal microbiota transplant from lean mice, they lose weight 3. And when lean mice get a fecal microbiota transplant from obese mice, they automatically gain weight 4.

That’s why you should optimize gut health – it helps you obtain and maintain a figure that makes you proud when you look in the mirror. Here are five powerful ways to boost your gut flora.

1. Eat Probiotic Foods

Probiotics are live microorganisms (usually in the form of bacteria) that benefit your health 5. Certain foods contain those live bacteria, especially foods that have undergone fermentation. Examples of probiotic-rich foods are yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, kombucha, natto, and pickles.

2. Supplement With Probiotics

If you don’t consume the foods above on a regular basis, chances are you don’t get enough probiotics. And even if you often eat those foods, you might still lack probiotic intake for various reasons. One of them is that most agricultural producers soak food with chlorine, which destroys many probiotics.

The solution? Take a probiotic supplement. It not only is a reliable way of getting your daily dose of probiotics, but it’s also been found to aid fat loss 6.  One study supplemented the diet of 210 obese individuals with the probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri for twelve weeks. As a result, they lost 8.5% of their belly fat 7.

3. Consume Resistant Starch

Resistant starches are special types of carb that don’t get broken down in your stomach and small intestine. Instead, they find their way to your colon, where they feed your friendly gut bacteria. That’s why resistance starches supercharge your gut flora.

Besides, consuming resistance starch also increases satiety and makes you ingest fewer calories 8-10. This helps in your quest to mold a lean and impressive physique.

4. Avoid Artificial Sweeteners

Certain artificial sweeteners spell trouble for your gut 11. An example is aspartame, which stimulates the growth of Enterobacteriaceae, an unhealthy bacteria that raises blood sugar levels 12.

5. Eliminate Stress

Stress wreaks havoc on your gut flora 13. It causes the overgrowth of certain bad bacteria while reducing microbial diversity 14-15. Eliminating all stress from your life is neither possible nor desirable, but there are various things you can do to reduce stress. Two effective strategies are practicing gratitude and meditating.

References

1. Ley, R. E., Turnbaugh, P. J., & Gordon, J. L. (2006). Microbial ecology: human gut microbes associated with obesity. Nature, 21;444(7122), 1022-3.

2. Turnbaugh, P. J., Ley, R. E., Mahowald, M. A., Magrini, V., Mardis, E. R., & Gordon, J. L. (2006). An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest. Nature, 21;444(7122), 1027-31.

3. Million, M., Lagier, J. C., Yahav, D., & Paul, M. (2013). Gut bacterial microbiota and obesity. Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 19(4), 305-13

4. Turnbaugh, P. J., Ley, R. E., Mahowald, M. A., Magrini, V., Mardis, E. R., & Gordon, J. L. (2006). An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest. Nature, 21;444(7122), 1027-31.

5. Hill, C., Guarner, F., Reid, G., Gibson, G. R., Merenstein, D. J., Pot, B., . . . Sanders, M. E. (2014). Expert consensus document. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 11(8), 506-14.

6. Angelakis, E., Merhej, V., & Raoult, D. (2013). Related actions of probiotics and antibiotics on gut microbiota and weight modification. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 13(10), 889-99.

7. Kadooka, Y., Sato, M., Ogawa, A., Miyoshi, M., Uenishi, H., Ogawa, H., . . . Tsuchida, T. (2013). Effect of Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 in fermented milk on abdominal adiposity in adults in a randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition, 14;110(9), 1686-703.

8. Bodinham, C. L., Frost, G. S., & Robertson, M. D. (2010). Acute ingestion of resistant starch reduces food intake in healthy adults. British Journal of Nutrition, 103(6), 917-22.

9. Anderson, G. H., Cho, C. E., Akhavan, T., Mollard, R. C., Luhovyy, B. L., & Finocchiaro, E. T. (2010). Relation between estimates of cornstarch digestibility by the Englyst in vitro method and glycemic response, subjective appetite, and short-term food intake in young men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91(4), 932-9.

10. Willis, H. J., Eldridge, A. L., Beiseigel, J., Thomas, W., & Slavin, J. L. (2009). Greater satiety response with resistant starch and corn bran in human subjects. Nutrition Research, 29(2), 100-5.

11. Suez, J., Korem, T., Zeevi, D., Zilberman-Schapira, G., Thaiss, C. A., Maza, O., . . . Elinav, E. (2014). Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature, 9;514(7521), 181-6.

12. Palmnas, M. S., Cowan, T. E., Bomhof, M. R., Su, J., Reimer, R. A., Vogel, H. J., . . . Shearer, J. (2014). Low-dose aspartame consumption differentially affects gut microbiota-host metabolic interactions in the diet-induced obese rat. PLoS One, 14;9(10), 109841.

13. Bailey, M. T., Dowd, S. E., Galley, J. D., Hufnagle, A. R., Allen, R. G., & Lyte, M. (2011). Exposure to a social stressor alters the structure of the intestinal microbiota: implications for stressor-induced immunomodulation. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 25(3), 397-407.

14. Bailey, M. T., Dowd, S. E., Parry, N. M., Galley, J. D., Schauer, D. B., & Lyte, M. (2010). Stressor exposure disrupts commensal microbial populations in the intestines and leads to increased colonization by Citrobacter rodentium. Infection and Immunity, 78(4), 1509-19.

15. Bailey, M. T., Dowd, S. E., Galley, J. D., Hufnagle, A. R., Allen, R. G., & Lyte, M. (2011). Exposure to a social stressor alters the structure of the intestinal microbiota: implications for stressor-induced immunomodulation. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 25(3), 397-407.

Fasted Cardio

Morning workouts are amazing. They are convenient and supply you with energy for the rest of the day. But let me ask you this: did you know that you can speed up your fat loss by doing your cardio fasted? It’s true and here’s why.

Fasted Cardio Aids Fat Loss

Exercising fasted is one of the best ways of maximizing fat loss. Fasted workouts boost fat oxidation, which means you use more fat for fuel 1-2.

This has to do with insulin. When you eat, insulin levels rise and remain elevated for hours 3. This helps store the nutrients you consumed.

That’s great, but it comes with a downside: elevated levels of insulin impair fat oxidation 4. In other words, you burn less body fat and dietary fat. Instead, you’ll use more glucose (carbs) for fuel.

And what happens when you’re in a fasted state? The reverse: your insulin levels are lowered and you burn more fat. One study found that men burned nearly 20% more fat when they ran on an empty stomach compared to a post-breakfast run 5!

Will Fasted Cardio Eat My Muscle Away?

A common argument against fasted cardio is muscle loss. Some believe that since you don’t consume protein beforehand, your body will break down muscle tissue and convert it into amino acids (protein).

Well, that can be true if you hit your workout long and hard and lack sufficient protein intake in general. However, you’ll be fine if you keep your cardio sessions below the 60-minute mark and consume enough protein in total, which would be at least 0.8 gram daily per pound of body weight. In this way, you will not burn away your hard-earned muscle tissues.

But what if you do intense cardio sessions longer than 60 minutes? In that case, consume 10 grams of BCAAs before your workout. It will not interfere with your fasted state, but it will prevent muscle loss.

How To Get Started

So, are you ready to take your cardio session to the next level and maximize fat loss? Great! If you’re new to fasted workouts (or fasting in general), the first sessions might be challenging. Food cravings and impaired performance are common, but don’t let that derail you – your body will adapt after a few sessions. You’ll feel less hungry, your performance will improve and, hopefully, you will start seeing changes in the mirror.

References

1. Derave, W., Mertens, A., Muls, E., Pardaens, K., & Hespel, P. (2007). Effects of post-absorptive and postprandial exercise on glucoregulation in metabolic syndrome. Obesity, 15(3), 704-11.

2. Van Proeyen, K., Szlufcik, K., Nielsen, H., Ramaekers, M., & Hespel, P. (2011). Beneficial metabolic adaptations due to endurance exercise training in the fasted state. Journal of Applied Physiology, 110(1), 236-45.

3. Surina, D. M., Langhans, W., Pauli, R., & Wenk, C. (1993). Meal composition affects postprandial fatty acid oxidation. American Journal of Physiology, 264(6;2), 1065-70.

4.. Choi, S. M., Tucker, D. F., Gross, D. N., Easton, R. M., DiPilato, L. M., Dean, A. S., . . . Birnbaum, M. J. (2010). Insulin regulates adipocyte lipolysis via an Akt-independent signaling pathway. Molecular and Cellular Biology, 30(21), 5009-20.

5. Gonzalez, J. T., Veasey, R. C., Rumbold, P. L., & Stevenson, E. J. (2013). Breakfast and exercise contingently affect postprandial metabolism and energy balance in physically active males. British Journal of Nutrition, 110(4), 721-32.

Weight Loss Mistakes

More than one billion adults worldwide are overweight! No wonder that fat loss is an often-pursued goal 1.

Unfortunately, most people fail in their quest to drop fat. This is almost always due to one or more of the four fat loss blunders below. Are you sabotaging your results?

Mistake #1: You Don’t Track Calories

Changes in the number on your scale are eventually determined by one thing: energy balance 2-4.

You gain weight if you consume more calories than you burn. You lose weight if you consume fewer calories than you burn. It’s that simple.

That’s why you must keep track of your calories. Start calculating how many calories you consume and how many you burn daily.

If that sounds like too much of a hassle, consider the results of a meta-analysis from the University of Oxford. The researchers found that weight loss programs that use calorie counting lead on average to 3.3 kilos (7 pounds) more weight loss 5.

Mistake #2: You Don’t Lift Weights

As we’ve seen, weight loss is simple, at least in theory: just consume fewer calories than you burn. However, the problem with slashing calories is that it can cause muscle loss.

Losing muscle not only diminishes your sex appeal but also makes it harder to keep the weight off. Why? Because muscle mass is one of the main determinants of your metabolic rate 6. The more muscle you carry, the more calories you burn, even when you sleep.

Fortunately, lifting weights helps prevent muscle loss when you’re on a diet. You might even gain muscle.

Besides, strength training boosts your metabolic rate, making you burn extra calories for hours after your workout 7.

Mistake #3: You Don’t Consume Enough Protein

If you don’t get enough protein, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. It’s one of the easiest (and tastiest) ways to optimize your weight loss efforts.

Why? Because protein is highly satiating 8. By upping your intake, you automatically consume fewer calories.

One study raised the protein intake of their participants from 15% to 30% of their daily calorie consumption. As a result, they ate on average 441 fewer calories a day 9. This led to an average weight loss of 11 pounds in just 12 weeks.

Mistake #4: You Lack Sleep

When we need to cut corners, sleep is often the first thing we sacrifice on. And while getting enough of it can be hard at times, sleep deprivation has enormous consequences, not only for your mental state but also your physical well-being.

One meta-analysis found that adults with poor sleep are 55% more likely to become obese. And in children, poor sleep raises the risk of obesity by a staggering 89% 10.

Why is that? Because sleep deprivation increases hunger, making you eat more 11-12. It does so by changing your brain chemistry: it lowers satiating hormones such as leptin while raising the hunger hormone ghrelin 13.

While the optimal amount of sleep varies among individuals, between 7 and 9 hours a night is a good general guideline.

Reference

1. Popkin, B. M., Paeratakul, S., Zhai, F., & Ge, K. (1995). A review of dietary and environmental correlates of obesity with emphasis on developing countries. Obesity Research, 2, 145-153.

2. Golay, A., Allaz, A. F., Morel, Y., De Tonnac, N., Tankova, S., & Reaven, G. (1996). Similar weight loss with low- or high-carbohydrate diets. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 63(2), 174-8.

3. Leibel, R. L., Hirsch, J., Appel, B. E., & Checani, G. C. (1992). Energy intake required to maintain body weight is not affected by wide variation in diet composition. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 55(2), 350-5.

4. Strasser, B., Spreitzer, A., & Haber, P. (2007). Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 51(5), 428-32.

5. Hartmann-Boyce, J., Johns, D. J., Jebb, S. A., & Aveyard, P. (2014). Effect of behavioural techniques and delivery mode on effectiveness of weight management: systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression. Obesity Reviews, 15(7), 598-609.

6. Zurlo, F., Larson, K., Bogardus, C., & Ravussin, E. (1990). Skeletal muscle metabolism is a major determinant of resting energy expenditure. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 86(5), 1423-7.

7. Paoli, A., Moro, T., Marcolin, G., Neri, M., Bianco, A., Palma, A., & Grimaldi, K. (2012). High Intensity Interval Resistance Training (HIRT) influences resting energy expenditure and respiratory ratio in non-dieting individuals. Journal of Translational Medicine, 24(10), 237.

8. 4. Hall, W. L., Millward, D. J., Long, S. J., & Morgan, L. M. (2003). Casein and whey exert different effects on plasma amino acid profiles, gastrointestinal hormone secretion and appetite. British Journal of Nutrition, 89(2), 239-48.

9. Weigle, D. S., Breen, P. A., Matthys, C. C., Callahan, H. S., Meeuws, K. E., Burden, V. R., & Purnell, J. Q. (2005). A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 82(1), 41-8.

10. Cappuccio, F. P., Taggart, F. M., Kandala, N. B., Currie, A., Peile, E., Stranges, S., & Miller, M. A. (2008). Meta-Analysis of Short Sleep Duration and Obesity in Children and Adults. Sleep, 31(5), 619-626.

11. Markwald, R. R., Melanson, E. L., Smith, M. R., Higgins, J., Perreault, L., Eckel, R. H., & Wright, K. P., Jr. (2013). Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2;110(14), 5695-700.

12. Chaput, J. P., & Tremblay, A. (2012). Sleeping habits predict the magnitude of fat loss in adults exposed to moderate caloric restriction. Obesity Facts, 5(4), 561-6.

13. Taheri, S., Lin, L., Austin, D., Young, T., & Mignot, E. (2004). Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS Medicine, 1(3), 62.

How to Cheat – Cheat Meals

Let me ask you this: how would it feel to indulge in your favorite foods while destroying unwanted pounds of fat at the same time?

Sounds like a stretch? Well, we understand if you’re skeptical. After all, most trainers claim you must eat “clean” to shape a body that makes you proud when you look in the mirror. But don’t fall for that belief! In fact, if you approach it right, enjoying “naughty” foods on a weekly basis can actually spur your fat loss efforts.

So, in this article, you’ll discover exactly why you should add cheat meals to your diet plan, and how to do so in the most efficient way. Let’s get started!

WHAT ARE CHEAT MEALS

A cheat meal is one where you don’t have to stick to the “approved” foods list. So, rather than going for the chicken with brown rice and vegetables, you can indulge in stuffed-crust pizza, crunchy potato chips, or another favorite junk food of yours. Cheat meals usually go with an increase in calorie intake. An often-used guideline is raising calorie consumption by 30%.

So, let’s say you usually consume 2,000 daily. On the day of your cheat meal, your calorie intake will hit the 2,600 mark.

The most common approach is consuming those extra calories in one meal (cheat meal), but spreading them throughout the day works, too (cheat day). This concept of “cheating” might sound counterproductive, but guess what? Overeating once in a while can actually help you shed fat. There are five reasons why.

REASON #1: CHEAT MEALS INCREASE LEPTIN

Leptin – often called the “starvation hormone” or the “satiety hormone” – is a hormone produced by your body fat cells [1]. Leptin plays a crucial role in regulating your body weight [2]. It does so by controlling how many calories you eat and burn and how much fat you store [3]. When you lose fat, leptin levels drop. This increases hunger, lowers your metabolic rate, and reduces your motivation for physical activities [4-5].

This feedback mechanism is why most people rebound to their previous weight after slimming down. Fortunately, adding a cheat meal to your diet boosts leptin. This, in turn, raises satiety, ups your metabolic rate, and helps you stay on track with your fat loss program [6-8].

REASON #2: CHEAT meals provide a diet break

Even those fully committed to losing fat can fall prey to the temptation of indulging in junk food. Yes, willpower can keep you on track, but being too strict with your diet puts you at high risk of eventually giving in to the urges. While a few extra calories don’t ruin your diet, there’s the following problem: satisfying those urges usually means binging on thousands of additional calories. As you can understand, this will undo all your fat loss progress of the last days, if not weeks.

The solution? Add a cheat meal to your diet plan. You’re less likely to fall prey to a binge if you have a structured time where you can consume your favorite foods without any guilt trips.

REASON #3: CHEAT MEALS boast your metabolic rate

Spiking your calorie intake boosts your metabolic rate for up to 24 hours [9]. Of course, this rise in metabolic rate does not undo the extra calories you’ve consumed – it doesn’t even come close. But here’s the thing: a cheat meal can undo some of the dieting-induced drop in metabolic rate.

That’s great because a dieting body naturally lowers its metabolic rate to preserve energy. A cheat meal helps counterbalance this.

REASON #4: cheat meals restock your glycogen stores

When you’re on a fat loss plan, glycogen levels naturally decline [10]. By adding a high-carb cheat meal to your diet, you replenish your glycogen reserves.This, in turn, boosts your gym performance. The reason is that glycogen serves as the primary energy source during high-intensity activities such as running and lifting weights [11].

REASON #5: Cheat Meals Boost Your Hormones

Dieting can take a toll on your hormonal health. The production of certain “good” hormones decrease because there is less energy available for your body to produce them. An example is testosterone, which drops in response to dieting. Fortunately, by spiking your calorie intake, testosterone levels – along with other important hormones – get restored [12].

Word of Warning

By now, you know why spiking your calorie intake while dieting can help you get lean.  And in your nutrition plans, you’ll see exactly how to add cheat meals to your diet. But before you descend on your favorite foods, one important note: the number on the scale might show up higher the day after your cheat meal. That might be discouraging to see, but there’s no need to overreact. If you follow our instructions, the increase in weight will not come from fat. There are three other explanations for this rise in body weight. First off, most cheat meals are rich in salt. And salt, as you probably know, can cause water retention [13-14].

Secondly, cheat meals usually contain lots of carbs. This, in turn, refills your glycogen stores. That’s great because it improves your gym performance. But keep in mind that glycogen also attracts water. For every gram of glycogen you store, your body holds onto three milliliters of water [15]. So, if your body stores 250 grams of glycogen, you’ll weigh (at least in theory) 2.2 pounds more. The third reason is that carbs spike insulin, which prevents your kidneys from shedding water. The carbs can thus cause you to hold onto extra fluids [16].

What’s the Bottom Line on Cheat Meals?

You don’t have to suffer a bland and boring “chicken, rice, and broccoli” diet to nuke unwanted pounds of fat. If you approach it right, eating your favorite “naughty” foods can even speed up your journey to a lean figure. In your nutrition plans, you’ll find how to add cheat meals to your diet. Good luck on your fat loss adventure!

references

  1.  Margetic, S., Gazzola, C., Pegg, G. G., & Hill, R. A. (2002). Leptin: a review of its peripheral actions and interactions. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 26(11), 1407-33.
  2. Allison, M. B., & Myers, M. G., Jr. (2014). 20 years of leptin: connecting leptin signaling to biological function. Journal of Endocrinology, 223(1), 25-35.
  3. Friedman, J. M., & Halaas, J. L. (1998). Leptin and the regulation of body weight in mammals. Nature, 22;395(6704), 763-70.
  4. Keim, N. L., Stern, J. S., & Havel, P. J. (1998). Relation between circulating leptin concentrations and appetite during a prolonged, moderate energy deficit in women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 68(4), 794-801.
  5. Ahima, R. S. (2008). Revisiting leptin’s role in obesity and weight loss. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 118(7), 2380-3.
  6. Pratley, R. E., Nicolson, M., Bogardus, C., & Ravussin, E. (1997). Plasma leptin responses to fasting in Pima Indians. American Journal of Physiology, 273(3 pt 1), 644-9.
  7. Davis, J. F. (2010). Adipostatic regulation of motivation and emotion. Discovery Medicine, 9(48), 462-7.
  8. Davis, J. F., Choi, D. L., & Benoit, S. C. (2010). Insulin, leptin and reward. Trends Endocrinology Metabolism, 21(2), 68-74.
  9. Katzeff, H. L., O’Connell, M., Horton, E. S., Danforth, E., Jr., Young, J. B., & Landsberg, L. (1986). Metabolic studies in human obesity during overnutrition and undernutrition: thermogenic and hormonal responses to norepinephrine. Metabolism, 35(2), 166-75.
  10. Kreitzman, S. N., Coxon, A. Y., & Szaz, K. F. (1992). Glycogen storage: illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 56(1), 292-293.
  11. Christmass, M. A., Dawson, B., Passeretto, P., & Arthur, P. G. (1999). A comparison of skeletal muscle oxygenation and fuel use in sustained continuous and intermittent exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 80(5), 423-35.
  12. Rossow, L. M., Fukuda, D. H., Fahs, C. A., Loenneke, J. P., & Stout, J. R. (2013). Natural bodybuilding competition preparation and recovery: a 12-month case study. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 8(5), 582-92.
  13. Kojima, S., Inoue, I., Hirata, Y., Saito, F., Yoshida, K., Abe, H., . . . Yoshima, H. (1987). Effects of changes in dietary sodium intake and saline infusion on plasma atrial natriuretic peptide in hypertensive patients. Clinical and Experimental Hypertension, 9(7), 1243-58.
  14. Luft, F. C., Rankin, L. I., Bloch, R., Willis, L. R., Fineberg, N. S., & Weinberger, M. H. (1983). The effects of rapid saline infusion on sodium excretion, renal function, and blood pressure at different sodium intakes in man. American Journal of Kidney Diseases, 2(4), 464-70.
  15. Fernández-Elías, V. E., Ortega, J. F., Nelson, R. K., & Mora-Rodriquez, R. (2015). Relationship between muscle water and glycogen recovery after prolonged exercise in the heat in humans. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 115(9), 1919-26.
  16. Tiwari, S., Riazi, S., & Ecelbarger, C. A. (2007). Insulin’s impact on renal sodium transport and blood pressure in health, obesity, and diabetes. Renal Physiology – American Journal of Physiology, 293(4), 974-84.

Healthy Breakfast Ideas On A Budget

Breakfast has long been considered to be the most important meal of the day. While breakfast may be important, many people just take that to mean that as long as you’re eating breakfast; you’ll get in great shape.

Truthfully, breakfast can be very important but only if it provides you with the results you’re hoping for.

Additionally, healthy ingredients can often be quite expensive, which is a deal breaker for many. Fortunately, there are some great options out there for healthy breakfast options that don’t have to cost you a fortune.

In this article, I’ll touch on how to build the perfect breakfast, while doing it without breaking the bank.

The Importance Of Breakfast

The fact of the matter is, breakfast is really only important if it actually helps you achieve whichever goal you’re working towards. If you’re hoping to lose weight, breakfast will only be beneficial if it allows you to control calorie intake throughout the whole day.

Alternatively, if your goal is to pack on muscle mass, breakfast is important if it helps you successfully hit your calorie and macronutrient goals.

Realistically, breakfast is far more important than simply eating a meal. It’s an opportunity to consume the healthy nutrients you need for progress, while also giving you an opportunity to influence factors like hunger and muscle building.

Ingredients Matter

As I mentioned earlier, breakfast can be integral to your training and diet plan as long as it pushes you towards the goal you’re working towards. If you’re eating a subpar breakfast, then you’re just increasing calories, rather than either reducing calories for weight loss or stimulating muscle-building processes for muscle growth.

That’s why I suggest you have a breakfast that is high in protein, healthy fats and fiber.

Protein especially is the most important ingredient mentioned here. Unfortunately, the most common breakfasts often include ingredients like cereal or bagels, even though they don’t really provide benefit other than more calories.

Protein on the other hand first provides the amino acids that are need to actually build new muscle. Not to mention, protein has been shown to be somewhat appetite suppressing, since it’s difficult to digest (1, 2, 3).

Thus, by consuming large amounts of protein at breakfast, you can initiate muscle growth while also having better control over calorie intake the rest of the day.

Fiber, such as from oatmeal or vegetables is very beneficial for helping you moderate your intake of food. Fiber actually absorbs water once ingested, which forms a gel-like substance in the stomach and intestines.

When this occurs, the speed that nutrients travel through the digestive tract are slowed, meaning that you feel a bit less hungry and more able to control your appetite and cravings (4, 5).

Together, protein and fiber rich foods combine to make a muscle building meal that will help you stay on track without even trying.

Healthy, Cheap Breakfast Options

Just because you’re starting to eat better breakfasts for your health and physique doesn’t mean that you need to break the bank. Over the years, I’ve compiled some of my favorite breakfast ideas that often come in under $5.

Breakfast #1: The Omelet

Ingredients:

  1. 2 Whole Eggs
  2. ½ Cup Egg Whites
  3. ¼ Cup Shredded Cheese
  4. 4 Oz. Ground Turkey, Seasoned
  5. 1 Cup Broccoli
  6. 1 Cup Tomato

Totals:

  1. Calories: 533
  2. Fat: 27g
  3. Carbs: 14g
  4. Protein: 57g

Instructions:

  1. Heat skillet to medium temperature
  2. Brown/drain ground turkey
  3. Crack whole eggs, whisk with egg whites
  4. Cook eggs on skillet
  5. Add all ingredients to skillet, atop eggs
  6. Once complete, fold and enjoy after cooling.

While this breakfast option is extremely cheap (eggs are usually around $1 per dozen), it’s also a fantastic combination of protein, healthy fats and of course some fiber from the vegetables.

Truth be told, this sort of meal is acceptable at just about any time of the day.

Breakfast #2: The Casserole

Ingredients:

  1. 1 Cup Diced Ham
  2. ½ Cup Shredded Cheddar
  3. 1 Cup Greek Yogurt
  4. ¼ Cup Crushed Saltines (around 6)
  5. 3 Links Breakfast Sausage

Totals:

  1. Calories: 802
  2. Fat: 42g
  3. Carbs: 27g
  4. Protein: 77g

Note: Can be multiple servings

Instructions:

  1. Cook Ham & Sausage. Chop
  2. In a bowl, mix shredded cheddar, eggs and yogurt
  3. Mix rest of ingredients
  4. Pour into baking pan
  5. Cook on 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes
  6. Periodically insert toothpick. Once pick is removed clean, the casserole is done.
  7. Let cool and enjoy

One of my personal favorites, this ham, and sausage and egg casserole is a knockout of a recipe providing high amounts of protein and healthy fats. Fortunately, you’ll have to make a fairly large portion to get it right so you’ll at least have some leftovers for lunch!

Breakfast #3: Back to Basics

Ingredients:

  1. 2 Whole Eggs
  2. 2 Egg Whites
  3. 1 Slice Ezekiel Bread
  4. ½ Avocado
  5. ½ cup Greek Yogurt

Totals:

  1. Calories: 447
  2. Fat: 22g
  3. Carbs: 27g
  4. Protein: 40g

Instructions:

  1. Cook eggs and whites as desired
  2. Toast Ezekiel bread
  3. Spread Avocado onto Ezekiel bread
  4. Scoop Greek yogurt into side bowl or dish
  5. Enjoy

Over the years, I’ve found that sometimes, breakfast just needs to be simple and healthy. With a combination of amazing proteins from the eggs and Greek yogurt in addition to healthy fats and fiber from the avocado and Ezekiel bread, you can’t go wrong with this healthy and cheap option.

Healthy Breakfast Ideas On A Budget

Breakfast is considered to be the most important meal of the day, but that’s really only true if consuming it actually helps you reach your goals.

If you’re dieting, a high protein diet can help you control your appetite and if you’re looking to pack on mass, it can act as an additional opportunity to increase precious protein.

Unfortunately, healthy food options can sometimes be expensive but it doesn’t need to be that way. With the healthy and cheap options I provided, you’ll be consuming an optimal breakfast each morning, for less than the price of your morning coffee.

References

  1. Tipton, K. D., Elliott, T. A., Cree, M. G., Wolf, S. E., Sanford, A. P., & Wolfe, R. R. (2004). Ingestion of casein and whey proteins result in muscle anabolism after resistance exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 36, 2073-2081.
  2. Hulmi, J. J., Lockwood, C. M., & Stout, J. R. (2010). Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein. Nutrition & metabolism, 7(1), 51.
  3. Veldhorst, M., Smeets, A. J. P. G., Soenen, S., Hochstenbach-Waelen, A., Hursel, R., Diepvens, K., … & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. (2008). Protein-induced satiety: effects and mechanisms of different proteins. Physiology & behavior, 94(2), 300-307.
  4. Cho, S. S., Case, I. L., & Nishi, S. (2009). Fiber and Satiety. Weight Control and Slimming Ingredients in Food Technology, 227.
  5. Lefranc-Millot, C., Macioce, V., Guérin-Deremaux, L., Lee, A. W., & Cho, S. S. (2012). Fiber and Satiety. Dietary Fiber and Health, 83.